Friday, January 20, 2012

Like sheep among wolves

     "So seen, 'Catholic Action' is at the same time—through the strange [but] providential enchainment of an act of love to the pressure [imposed] by a world that slips again and again into the [posture of an] Anti-Church—the only form of the work of the Church in the world possible today.  Thanks to the accelerating disentanglement of the interpenetration and mutually supportive reinforcement of Church and State that grew up historically, [the Church] has now only as much indirect power over the individual as he in freedom confers upon it.   Despite all [of the] concordats, there remain to it almost no public legal means of holding him, with the help of the State, to even the merely external fulfillment of its requirements.  [If] the Church must release the faithful, as those strengthened—confirmed!—by the Holy Spirit for their world-sanctifying office, into the world [just] as it did in its first times, [then] it can no longer, by [an] indirect influence over the shape of the public temporal order, protect [them] from the most extreme of trials in the here and now."

     Ignaz Zangerle, "Zur situation der Kirche," Der Brenner 14 (1933/34): 46.  Bio here and here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

"the impulse to scratch when I itch or to pull to pieces when I am inquisitive"

"But what never claimed objectivity cannot be destroyed by subjectivism.  The impulse to scratch when I itch or to pull to pieces when I am inquisitive is immune from the solvent which is fatal to my justice, or honour, or care for posterity.  When all that says 'it is good' has been debunked, what says 'I want' remains.  It cannot be exploded or 'seen through' because it never had any pretensions.  The Conditioners, therefore, must come to be motivated simply by their own pleasure. . . . those who stand outside all judgements of value cannot have any other ground for preferring one of their own impulses to another except the emotional strength of that impulse. . . . our hope even of a 'conditioned' happiness rests on what is ordinarily called 'chance'the chance that benevolent impulses may on the whole predominate in our Conditioners.  For without the judgement 'Benevolence is good'that is, without re-entering the Taothey can have no ground for promoting or stabilizing their benevolent impulses rather than any others.  By the logic of their position they must just take their impulses as they come, from chance.  And Chance here means Nature.  It is from heredity, digestion, the weather, and the association of ideas, that the motives of the Conditioners will spring.  Their extreme rationalism, by 'seeing through' all 'rational' motives, leaves them creatures of wholly irrational behaviour.  If you will not obey the Tao, or else commit suicide, obedience to impulse (and therefore, in the long run, to mere 'nature') is the only course left open.
     "At the moment, then, of Man's victory over Nature, we find the whole human race subject to some individual men, and those individuals subjected to that in themselves which is purely 'natural'to their irrational impulses.  Nature, untrammelled by values, rules the Conditioners and, through them, all humanity.  Man's conquest of Nature turns out, in the moment of its consummation, to be Nature's conquest of Man. . . . If the fully planned and conditioned world (with its Tao a mere product of the planning) comes into existence, Nature will be troubled no more by the restive species that rose in revolt against her so many millions of years ago, will be vexed no longer by its chatter of truth and mercy and beauty and happiness.  Ferum victorem cepit:  and if the eugenics are efficient enough there will be no second revolt, but all snug beneath the Conditioners, and the Conditioners beneath her, till the moon falls or the sun grows cold."

     C. S. Lewis, The abolition of man, or reflections on education with special reference to the teaching of English in the upper forms of schools, University of Durham Riddell memorial lectures 15, chap. 3 ((New York:  The Macmillan Company, 1947), 41-43).
     On that intermediate subjection, that of "the whole human race . . . to some individual men" ("the Conditioners"), cf. B. F. Skinner, as quoted on p. 165 of RĂ©mi Brague's The kingdom of man:  genesis and failure of the modern project, trans. Paul Seaton, Catholic ideas for a secular world (Notre Dame, IN:  University of Notre Dame Press, 2018):
When we ask what Man can make of Man, we don't mean the same thing of 'Man' in both instances.  We mean to ask what a few men can make of mankind.  And that's the all-absorbing question of the twentieth century.  What kind of world can we build—those who understand the science of behavior?

Monday, January 16, 2012

The hermeneutics of suspicion as fundamentally mechanistic, and in that sense illiberal

The "reductive program [of the Laplacean fallacy], applied to politics, entails the idea that political action is necessarily shaped by force, motivated by greed and fear, with morality used as a screen to delude the victims."

     Michael Polanyi, Personal knowledge: towards a post-critical philosophy, pt. 2, chap. 6, sec. 2 ((London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962 [1958]), 141). 

A scientific method that has a disintegrating effect on the person or thing it was introduced to understand is of no "scientific value" at all

"the pursuits of biology, medicine, psychology and the social sciences, may [1-2] rectify our everyday conceptions of plants and animals, and even of man and society; but we must set against any such modification its effect on [3] the interest by which the study of the original subject matter had been prompted and justified.  If the scientific virtues of [1] exact observation and [2] strict correlation of data are given absolute preference for the treatment of a subject matter which disintegrates when represented in such terms, the result will be irrelevant to the subject matter and probably of no [3] interest at all."

     Michael Polanyi, Personal knowledge:  towards a post-critical philosophy, pt. 2, chap. 6, sec. 2 ((London:  Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1962 [1958]), 137).  Polanyi is here weighing the first two of the three factors constitutive of "scientific value" against the third (pp. 135-136), and grounding the third, or "intrinsic interest," in "ordinary" or "everyday" or "pre-scientific interest".

"a kind of propitiation which was not simply a doctrinal transaction"

     "[Mr Bulstrode] had long poured out utterances of repentance.  But to-day a repentance had come which was of a bitterer flavour, and a threatening Providence urged him to a kind of propitiation which was not simply a doctrinal transaction.  The divine tribunal had changed its aspect for him; self-prostration was no longer enough, and he must bring restitution in his hand."

      George Eliot, Middlemarch, Bk. 6, chap. 61 (ed. W. J. Harvey (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1965), 668).

"general doctrine . . . unchecked by the deep-seated habit of direct fellow-feeling"

"There may be coarse hypocrites, who consciously affect beliefs and emotions for the sake of gulling the world, but Bulstrode was not one of them.  He was simply a man whose desires had been stronger than his theoretic beliefs, and who had gradually explained the gratification of his desires into satisfactory agreement with those beliefs.  If this be hypocrisy, it is a process which shows itself occasionally in us all, to whatever confession we belong. . . .
"to Mr Bulstrode God's cause was something different from his own rectitude of conduct:  it enforced a discrimination of God's enemies, who were to be used merely as instruments, and whom it would be well if possible to keep out of money and consequent influence.  Also, profitable investments in trades where the power of the prince of this world showed its most active devices, became sanctified by a right application of the profits in the hands of God's servant.
     "This implicit reasoning is essentially no more peculiar to evangelical belief than the use of wide phrases for narrow motives is peculiar to Englishmen.  There is no general doctrine which is not capable of eating out our morality if unchecked by the deep-seated habit of direct fellow-feeling with individual fellow-men."

     George Eliot, Middlemarch, Bk. 6, chap. 61 (ed. W. J. Harvey (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1965), 667-668).

"we can set a watch over our affections and our constancy as we can over other treasures."

     George Eliot, Middlemarch, Bk. 6, chap. 57 (ed. W. J. Harvey (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1965), 625).